“My job is to notice… and notice that you can notice.” This quote from Dionne Brand was the epigraph for this course. The idea of noticing small things such as random hand gestures seems irrelevant but ended up being was helpful. Although this was our epigraph during the semester, “Both/and” might as well have been, especially considering how often we reference this simple, yet effective, technique when creating insightful and meaningful connections. This phrase shaped a lot of my thinking when forming connections between the course material and my prior knowledge that was relevant to the topics.
When this course began, I found myself confused. I figured that this would dissipate when I had a lightbulb moment and everything would begin to piece together, making sense. However, about halfway through the semester, my frustrations began to increase because I did not have the lightbulb moment I expected and was left in confusion. This confusion left me with great respect for my peers who were able to find all these connections and share them with the class. This also left me feeling envious because in my other English classes I was able to find those connections. I felt left out in class despite the fact that I was constantly included and given opportunities to share my ideas. As questions were asked, I was unable to give my feedback considering that I hardly had any, and what I did have seemed insignificant to me, which embarrassing.
After noticing my struggles as the course progressed, I began to work on them, trying to become more open-minded. I focused on the idea that training does not mean understanding. To me, it seems a particularly relevant idea as this course has continued. In class, we kept progressing by reading, writing, and forming connections, yet even as we did so, I noticed times when I didn’t fully understand the books, articles, or some of the deeper connections between the two. I became frustrated when I was unable to distinguish any though lines in the course material other than the obvious connections between medicine and literature and the disrespectful treatment of the lower class. Usually when I am unable to find an answer, after some time, that answer was given to me. Yet, that is not how this course works and I have been unsure of what to make of that ever since. Professor McCoy reminded the class to pay attention to our emotions throughout this course when trying to absorb the material content. I have been able consider my feelings about the blog posts and why they are so. Despite this, I have been stuck and unable to find the solution to this problem which has amplified my frustrations.
I came into this class knowing that I am a visual, hands on learner who understands language well, preferring the possibilities of having many solutions to a problem rather than only one. I work well when given direct directions but struggle without them. My organized, orderly, and neat habits help me focus and allow me to create a better learning experience for myself. Due to this, the book Zulus by Percival Everett was a difficult for me to read, understand, and connect with. The book jumps between what old Alice’s head was seeing and what the new Alice was experiencing. I failed to understand the importance of the connection, making the book harder for me to read. Additionally, I wish I had gotten more out of Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington, but something so factual was difficult for me to become interested in. My strategy for this was to focus on reading it in small portions. I usually find books most interesting when they are relatable to my life or when they take me on a journey through well written story telling. With this being said, it surprises me that I felt a strong dislike for Zone One by Colon Whitehead because it is in some ways, it had similarities to some books I’ve read and enjoyed in the past. None of the books we read had content that I could connect to my personal life which made it hard to relate to the characters. When I noticed that I felt this way, I tried to put myself in their shoes but failed to do so. Out of all the readings, Home and Clay’s Ark were the two texts I was able to comprehend most effectively.
Home by Toni Morrison was a book written most similarly to those in which I have studied prior to this. As a result, I was able to accomplish more meaningful reflections. Surprisingly, the book Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler drew me in and kept me hooked. The book continually jumped between past and present which confused me at first, but once I began understanding the structure, I was able to engage in the story and found myself wanting to read ahead. I just wish I had reached this point with Zone One and Zulus. With these texts we were supposed to create insightful blog posts, but I’ve noticed my difficulties when attempting to begin writing and how they effected my learning.
When I am forced to write something, I struggle to figure out how I want to setup my writing. Then, after I did create an idea and attempted to build off it, one thought kept reoccurring in my mind: This isn’t good enough, I need something better. But how am I supposed to accomplish that? During this course I continually discouraged myself. English is one of my favorite subjects and I’ve always been able to bring lots of thoughts and ideas into the classrooms I’ve been a part of. However, this class challenged me so much that I was unsure what to make of that. This class pushed me out of my comfort zone with the course content and blog post assignments. This was a good example of a Geneseo course meant to meet the ideals of the GLOBE awareness, pushing students to learn more things about the world around them that they may not have known otherwise. I learned about things I would have never assumed to be relevant in a class about literature, medicine, and racism, like the African Burial ground that inspired my thoughts about respecting the dead which I was able to turn into a blog post. Also, who knew that dental health would connect to the books we had been studying or that the history of applause would have anything to do with this class? But they do connect, and those little details helped me make sense of this big confusing picture I’ve been trying to understand. It is okay not to fully understand, but rather embrace what you do take away from it and apply it to other aspects of life in a continuous cycle of learning.
Bounce. Catch. Bounce. Catch. Were the thoughts running through my mind as we preformed the bouncy ball exercise in our classroom. At first, when we began the exercise, I did not understand its purpose. After having a class discussion regarding the activity, my understanding began to grow,
While in class, we would do both small and large group work. The small groups allowed me to feel more comfortable sharing my ideas with my peers without feeling judged. In our groups I noticed that we bounced ideas off each other which lead to us creating theories about the books and their endings, which were some of the most productive conversations I had. While in contrast, the larger group convening after having spent time within smaller groups allowed for each of the groups to share the most relevant things they discussed and turn that into a large group discussion that was monitored by our professor who helped to guide the discussion by asking leading questions and providing insightful comments.
One of the things Professor McCoy mentioned in a class discussion was, “The power of realistic expectations,” which inspired me to consider that I should have expected more from myself in some parts of this course and less in others. I feel as though my knowledge and understanding have developed much less than what I predicted and would have preferred, but I’m also not walking away from this class empty handed. I have learned strategies, learned new ways to find things in books, learned about myself, and have been humbled. Moving forward, I will notice when I need to ask for help and then do so. I will also have more experiences with these different ideas, book styles, and blog posts and apply these experiences to other things I learn and be able to notice that I am noticing, form connections, and use those connections to enhance my learning and share my ideas with others.
If I could go back and do this class over I would ask for more insights from my professor and teaching assistants and try to learn how I need to think rather than just struggling, wasting my own time, and damaging my grade in the process. I know I have not done my best work. I have worked hard and put in lots of time and effort into this class, however, the results of what I have accomplished are limited due to myself. I found it hard to piece together connections and make it into an entire blog post that would be interesting to read, which is funny, because finding connections in books and hidden meanings is typically my favorite part of English classes. When the course began, my professor kept mentioning cross checking and why it was important. Honestly, at first I ignored her words, but as she continued to bring it up during the semester I began to understand how it was relevant and applied to the learning and work that I was doing, not only in this class, but in others. One of my takeaways from this course was learning about food safety and how that can be an important part of daily life that makes a big difference. What I didn’t notice then, because I was trying find more relevant connections between food safety and this course, was that sometimes those small day to day activities make the biggest differences in our lives. We should not forget about all the small details as we look at the big picture. If I could take this class again, I would remind myself to look beyond the big picture and notice things within myself.